In sports, everyone is a winner-some people just win better than others. Like Japan's new all-time single-season hits leader, Matt Murton. Yes, the same Matt Murton who washed out in Chicago, Oakland and Colorado.
In the wee hours of the morning, Murton stepped to the plate in Tokyo with 210 hits under his belt. He was tied with Ichiro Suzuki for NPB's single-season mark, but that wouldn't last long. He slapped a single to center for 211, the most in the 76-year history of Japanese professional baseball. Needless to say, his 212th and 213th hits later in the game were also records.
Perhaps your remember Murton, the little redhead with underwhelming power, negligible speed and a willingness to swing at anything. His previous claims to fame were, in order, being traded with Nomar Garciaparra, and being traded for Rich Harden. I suppose getting more hits than anyone else in Japan's history shoots to the top of that list.
To be fair, Murton has 14 more games in his season than Ichiro did when he set NPB's record in 1994. But for a player who managed 272 hits total in five seasons in America, it's still pretty extraordinary. But not surprising. Marginal major leaguers have a history of excelling at the plate in Japan, from Randy Bass to Tuffy Rhodes to Murton's Hanshin teammate, Craig Brazell. Brazell hit his 47th and 48th home runs today. That's more home runs than Brazell ever had plate appearances in MLB. And Hanshin is in the Central League, the pitching-first equivalent of our National League.
I guess what I'm saying is, don't trust Japanese pitching. Aside from Nomo and a few solid bullpen guys, our shores are littered with heralded Japanese hurlers who couldn't cut it. The Hideki Irabus, the Kaz Ishiis, the Kei Igawas, the Masato Yoshiis. (Perhaps we can add Dice-K to this list soon.)
I guess what I'm really saying is, I hope no one pays $50 mil for the right to negotiate with Yu Darvish.